Dinner With Carmen -

I sat down and ordered hot tea and obsessively stared down the Chinese dim sum menu after making 
myself go in a restaurant by myself (that's a hard one for even an extrovert like me). I didn't know if they'd even serve
 one person dim sum since it's a family affair in China, but they did, and after ordering little dim sum plates for myself, 
the petite lady three booths in front of me softly called out: "I ordered dim sum for one too!" 

We both laughed, and then I said to her: "Would you like to come sit with me?" 
I could see her lonely eyes light up even as she hesitated, "Are you sure?" 
I called back: "Of course! No one should eat dim sum alone! It'll be more Chinese this way!" 

She walked over, we shook hands and introduced ourselves and as we waited for our food, we talked....

Her name was Carmen, she was from Puerto Rico, she had three adult children; she moved to Daytona Beach 
from Chicago sixteen years ago. Her eyes suddenly glistened with tears as she waved her hands expressively,
 "No one has EVER", she choked up, "... done this. No one has ever asked me to eat with them. 
I don't have any friends here." Her brown eyes pierced mine: "You KNOW how rare this is. You're so different."
 I just smiled because yes, I knew. I was eating dinner with a perfect stranger in a restaurant I'd never visited before. 

She went on: "People don't see people as....they see Puerto Rican. They don't see us as equals. They don't just talk to you." 
I decided 7 minutes into the conversation was as good a time as any to ease her into why I was so different.... 
I told her I was a professing Christian and that I believed what the Bible says about people: 
that every person is an image bearer of God and that is how He sees us, and that is how I want to see people too. 

Carmen nodded in shocked agreement and thanked me as our food arrived via my waitress who was 
starting to adore me because I'd invited a total stranger to eat w/me because "it was more Chinese."
She nodded in a brisk motherly manner at us: "That's how it should be.", and then about fell over in 
shock when this white girl thanked her in Mandarin. She proceeded to check on us every 5 minutes, 
wait on our every need, and tell the entire staff that I spoke Mandarin, which means when I left, 
I basically had tenure at the restaurant and a promise that if I came in every week, she'd not only teach me Chinese faster 
than anyone ever could, but she'd find me "a good Chinese husband....who will also adopt your Chinese babies". 
She lost her giddy self in my China baby pictures and laughed in delight that I called them "my babies". 
This white girl Shaanxi lover, an adoring Chinese waitress and Carmen from Puerto Rico. What a trio we were! 

I asked Carmen if I could pray for our food, and since she said yes,
I prayed a blessing on the food and prayed over Carmen and her life.
As I finished, she let go of her grip on my hand and reached for a napkin to cover her eyes.

She was crying. She was so so deeply moved. 

I smiled and quietly poured our tea and waited. I knew how that felt. 

The loneliness had faded from her eyes, replaced by the joy of belonging as she again stated: 
"You. You are so different. Especially at your age." I thought I'd never been so glad I'd invited a 
perfect stranger to eat with me, and just thanked Jesus under my breath that He'd led me here.

Over the next 2 hours, she poured out her heart and shared her life with me while we ate wonton soup, 
pork dumplings, egg rolls, shrimp & veggies and were adoringly waited on by our waitress.
 We laughed through me giving her a 10min chopstick lesson and talked about our families, our jobs, 
our towns, and I shared with her about China, adoption, and the Gospel. 

Every time some white people walked through the door, I said "Oh look. White people!"and she cracked 
up every single time, like "don't you know you're white?". I laughingly told her how much I loved 
being the minority for once. She just shook her head at me, me, her youngest daughter's age. 
She laughed so hard over my sesame ball story from China, as we munched into its crispy sweet goodness
 and we talked about the best way to cook plantains. 

Louis Armstrong sang "What a Wonderful World" in the background as her smile matched mine,
and all I could think about is how best to love her right now. I can't imagine much better ways than sharing life
 and stories over Chinese food, I truly can't. Two no longer strangers. She insisted on giving me her number:
 "in case you eat dim sum here again". The way she asked me to meet her daughter working across the street,
and the way she hugged me and kissed me on the cheeks like a mother would. "God bless you! God bless you!"

 It was wonderful meeting you, Carmen. 

Our worldwide family. Such a gift from the Father Who loves us so well. 
Jesus, lead us to see others more and more how You see us!! It's such a beautiful thing. 

What a wonderful world indeed.

- JM - 


  1. Jean Marie, thanks for sharing this story! It's a good reminder and encouragement to me to reach out more to others. :) Thank-you.


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